Christmas Day Survivors

What’s a gardener to do on Christmas Day in the downtime before or after Christmas dinner? Well, snow permitting, it’s great fun to walk around the garden and make a list of what plants are in flower on the day. I’ve done this every year, and each year I’ve found the list is very different from the last. If you read gardening literature you’ll know technically very little should be in flower as most finish in late November or start in January. Therefore, the plants you’re seeing that are in flower are either late arrivals or early starters.

There’s always plenty to see in the garden in December with winter stems, ornamental barks, winter coloured foliage, and berries, but it’s those seasonal refugees that can be a real surprise – and a threat. This is especially true this December as the weather’s been mild and a little wet. Aberglasney is a particularly good garden for this as it contains so many early flowering plants which often appear in December.

Since the 21st of December, it’s been great to see the first snowdrops out in bloom, and its relatives aren’t far behind them. There’s something lovely and reassuring about snowdrops – they seem to remind you that spring and summer still exist whilst also being beautiful, delicate garden plants.

Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs McNamara’ Snowdrop and a Robin in Aberglasney Gardens

Another bulb that’s becoming one of the all-time winter greats is Narcissus Cedric Morris which seems to get better and better throwing more flowers each week. It should be noted this plant has been in flower since November making it very long-lasting.

Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’

The Cyclamen have continued flowering, have enjoyed the mild weather, and are rivalling their indoor relatives this year. There are various clumps through the garden that have kept going to the end of the season, and their flower colour seems more vibrant in these short days with poor light.

Hardy Cyclamen in flower on Christmas Day

Shrubs such as Mahonia, which have been discussed recently, are loving the mild conditions and as a result are looking fantastic, especially as they bring a little perfume to the garden which isn’t easy to find in mid-winter.

Mahonia

One plant you won’t be surprised to see in many gardens on Christmas day is the Hellebore, often known as the Lenten rose or Christmas Rose. The most reliable Christmas flowering Hellebore is Helleborus niger which has white flowers and will probably be coming into its own by the New Year.

In the veg garden, Kale and purple Brussel sprouts still look great despite most having been used in our Tearooms. However, the biggest star in the Kitchen Garden is the Rainbow Chard which is still cropping and looks fantastic. The real mark of approval for this plant is the Tearooms manager remarking that no matter how busy they get or how much they use up, there’s always plenty more each time they need it.

I find December and January are really good months for spotting the plants that have really earnt their keep both in the vegetable and ornamental gardens. The same plants have been growing well, looking good, and being harvested since May right up to December this year, and they look as if they’ll keep going for a while yet!

 

Tips for the Week:

  1. Enjoy having a break!
  2. Look at the gaps in the garden and decide whether you need any evergreen cover
  3. Make sure bird feeders and bowls are full and ice-free
  4. Clear up windblown debris – there seems to be a lot around at the moment
  5. If you’re on dry ground and you have a chance then mowing the lawn is always a good idea
  6. Cut back late flowering plants as it’ll strengthen them for next season
  7. Check your protective fleeces are secure